A challenge to the validity of the world record 136.4°F (58°C) at Al Aziza, Libya

By: Christopher C. Burt , 1:50 PM GMT on October 08, 2010

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QUESTIONS CONCERNING THE WORLD’S HOTTEST TEMPERATURE ON RECORD: 136.4°F (58°C) AT AL AZIZIA, LIBYA SEPTEMBER 13, 1922

One of the "sacred cows" of world weather extremes has been the widely reported "hottest temperature ever recorded on earth", a reading of 58°C (136.4°F) reported from Al Azizia, Libya on Sept. 13, 1922. There are many different spellings of this location:

al 'Aziziyah
El Azizia
El Azizya
Al Azizi
العزيزية


This figure has been controversial since it first appeared in publications of climate data by Italian colonial authorities in their publication Il Clima di Azizia, Tripolitanai by F. Erndia and reprinted in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 1924 (p.324,) and in the German climate science journal Meteorologische Zeitschrift 1925, p.39. This data originated from the publication R. Ufficio Centrale di Meteorologia e Geodinamica; Osservazioni dell anno 1922 Rome, Italy. For an image of the cover of this book please see http://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/news_members /documents/Libya.pdf.

However, its validity was first raised in an article that appeared in the U.S. Weather Bureau's Monthly Weather Review article published (unedited) in May 1930 (p.209) written by someone using the initials A.J.H.:

"At once it appeared to me as striking that a temperature so high should occur relatively near the sea and in a region of only semi desert character. A comparison with the remaining Tripolitanian stations in the R. Ufficio Agrario, Sezione Meteorogica, Nr. 4, and 5, showed that the reading is about 20° higher than the maxima on the same day and on the preceding day at other stations: Tripoli, 115°; Sidi Mesri, 111°; Homs, 112°; and Zuara Marina, 117°. Also in the year 1923, when the publication gives 135° as the maximum for Azizia, all of the remaining stations, nine in number, have maximum temperatures 18° or more degrees lower..."



THE SETTING:
Al Azizia is situated at an elevation of 158 meters (520 feet approximately) about 55 kilometers (25 miles) south and a bit west of Tripoli. It was a major trading center for the Sahel Jeffara region, hence its military significance prior to WW II.

The Tripolitania region of Libya is subject to a foehn phenomena locally known as a Ghibli wind, akin to the Santa Ana winds of Southern California, but in this case related to offshore breezes originating in the Sahara Desert that, when conditions warrant, is similar to Santa Anas; hot air from the interior is forced over the coastal hills and is compressed and heated by downward sloping along the shore line and foothills along the leeward slopes, in this case the Jabal Nafusah mountains (highest peak being about 750 meters (2,500 feet) in northwestern Libya.



Extreme maximum temperatures are the result. There is little doubt that the Ghibli wind phenomena was occurring on this date in Libya given the extreme temperatures reported from Tripoli (25 miles north by northeast of Al Azizia) and other locations in the coastal plain along the Mediterranean there. August and September are the months that these events are most common here, just as September and October are the months Santa Anas are most likely to form along the coast of Southern California. Note in the map above that the most of the known temperatures recorded on Sept. 13, 1922 were from coastal locations. However, during offshore foehn events interior locations are not necessarily hotter than coastal ones. Sidi Mesri, for instance (about 7 miles inland), was actually cooler than the Tripoli reading. It is highly unlikely that a reading some 20°F warmer could have occurred a further 18 miles inland from Sidri Mesri.

In this analysis I am only concerned about the extreme reading at Al Azizia.

EXAMINATION OF THE INSTRUMENT AND EXPOSURE:
In the 1950s Italian physical scientist A. Fantoli examined the thermometer and the shelter used in this world-record temperature observation. His conclusions were reported in two publications:

A. FANTOLI, I valori medi della temperatura in Libia, «Bollettino della Società Geografica Italiana», vol. 7, nn. 1-2 (1954), pp. 59-71.

A. FANTOLI, La più alta temperatura del mondo, «Rivista di Meteorologia Aeronautica», vol. 18, n. 3 (1958), pp. 53-63.

The crucial part of his reports concerned the exposure of the thermometer at the site and the thermometer itself :

1-Che se nel 1922 non si poté far altro che accogliere la cifra su esposta, del resto esplicitamente confermata, via radio, dall'autorità militare locale (el-Azizìa rimase per vario tempo isolata per ragioni contingenti) e quindi dalla scheda delle osservazioni, quando fu possibile raggiungere quel centro, si poté constatare che gli estremi termici erano stati ricavati mediante un termometro Six-Bellani essendosi guastato quello a massima della coppia ordinaria di dotazione»

2-La capannina con persiane semplici (abri, tipo inglese) veniva quindi a trovarsi a 5,5 metri dal suolo, a 48 circa sul piano medio della pianura circostante ed a 163 metri sul livello del mare. La base della capannina (isolata da tutte le parti) era stata fissata con staffe sul piano della terrazza, rivestito d'una copertura di cemento incatramato. Gli strumenti erano collocati nel modo usuale: anemoscopio e pluviometro situati a conveniente distanza; l'anemometro a mano (anemometro tipo Salmoiraghi) veniva portato in terrazza ad ogni osservazione.

This is translated as such (the language in his original report was of an archaic type and difficult to translate into English verbatim--italics indicate my own notes):

1- "So in 1922 you could not help but accept the figure on display, also explicitly confirmed by radio, by the local military (el-Aziz was isolated for some time for strategic reasons) and then by the observation log sheet when it was possible to see that data, you could see that the extreme heat was measured by a thermometer Six/Bellani having failed the other thermometer's "maximum potential" of the ordinary equipment (referring to, apparently, another thermometer on site that was not self-registering or capable of recording a value as high as 58°C). NOTE: The "Six/ Bellani" refers to this type of thermometer:

http://www.uniurb.it/PhysLab/strumenti/Heat.html

...and was used to record the 58°C since it was capable of being self-registering--.i.e. max and min temperatures recordings without human observation--unlike the "ordinary" thermometer apparently also in use at the site. The use of a self-registering instrument, such as this, throws more doubt on the observation implying that no human observation was made at the site that day).

2-The simple shelter with simple shutters (Abri, English type) (the term of an "abri English "type shelter" is not understood although "abri" is a French word for "shelter" perhaps he is just saying it was a standard shelter commonly used in Europe at that time) was fixed at 5.5 meters (sic) it must have been 5.5 feet not meters otherwise a 20 foot ladder must have been used to reach the shelter!) above the ground, at (an elevation) 48 meters above the surrounding plain, and at 163 meters above sea level. The base of the shelter (enclosed on all sides) (we will give the benefit of doubt here that the shelter was louvered as per a Stevenson screen) had been fixed by brackets on the floor of the terrace plaza, which was coated with a covering of tarred concrete. The instruments were placed in the usual way: anemometer and rain gauge located at a convenient distance away, the hand airspeed indicator (anemometer type Salmoiraghi) was taken on the terrace at every observation."

The key sentence being that the shelter "...was fixed on the surface of the terrace plaza which was covered by tarred concrete." The color of the concrete is not noted, but to the best of my knowledge most tarred concrete is black.

The WMO extreme weather records committee has this discussion concerning the measurement:

WMO Extreme Weather Records Committee Discussion
"An Italian weather station measured a temperature of 136.4°F (58°C) in al' Aziziyah (Azizia) Libya (about 25 miles south of Tripoli). Although this record has gained general acceptance as the world's highest temperature recorded under standard conditions, the validity of the extreme has been questioned. Fántoli (1954,1958) examined the record and researched the exposure, the instrument shelter, and the instruments themselves. A discussion in English of Fántoli's 1954 work appears in Gentilli, 1955. Fántoli generally concluded that the probable extreme maximum should have been only 132.8°F (56°C). Lamb (1958) noted that the extreme occurred following two days of hot, southerly winds and that latent heat may have been added to the air mass due to rain south of location."

HISTORY OF STATION:
Temperature records at this site were first established in 1919 by the Italian military at a farm 25 miles south of Tripoli. This farm may, in fact was almost certainly, being used as a military station. In 1926 the instruments were replaced and the location moved to a site nearby and put in civilian hands. Some references claim members of The National Geographic Society provided the instruments in 1913 (see "Change in the Weather" by Philip Eden p.195, The Daily Telegraph publishers, London, UK, 2005). Correspondence with NGS has indicated that this was not the case. They have no record of anyone from their organization providing such equipment at this time or at anytime in Libya. Here is correspondence received from them on March 8, 2010:

"Thank you for contacting the National Geographic Society.

The Society does not have meteorological stations. We reported on the highest temperature ever recorded at El Azizia; however, the recording equipment was not ours.

The World Meteorological Organization website indicates there is no information available on the actual equipment used to record the temperature:

http://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/news_members /documents/Libya.pdf

I hope this information is helpful.

Sincerely yours,

Julie Crain
National Geographic Society."


After the location was moved, sometime in 1926, regular temperature data was supplied until 1942 when WWII interrupted such and the Italian authority was displaced.

The station was reestablished in 1947 following the war at the same site and continued in operation until 1984. In 2007 a new site was under construction for the weather station and the progress on this is undetermined.

STATISTICAL RECORD OF TEMPERATURES AT SITE:
Here is a chart of the extreme maximum monthly temperatures recorded at Al Azizia from 1920-1942 (centigrade):



Note the many extreme readings of 52°C+ (125.6°F) prior to 1927 and especially the 130°F+ readings in Aug. 1923, and Sept. 1923. No reading above 45.9°C (114.6°F) was recorded in September following the change in site and instrumentation. In fact the hottest post-1927 reading was 51.9°C (125.4°) in June 1928. Nine 50°C (122°F) readings were recorded between 1920 and 1926, with just 2 such from 1927 through 1942. The average absolute maximum temperature for September was 48.3°C (118.9°F) for the period of 1920-1926 and 42.4°C (108.3°F) for the period of 1927-1942. For August this average was 51.2°C (124.2°F) for 1920-1926 and 44.6°C (112.3°F) for 1927-1942. So the average absolute maximum temperatures for the period of 1920-1926 in August and September were some 10°F higher than for those same months in the 1927-1942 period of record.

(* Thanks to Khalid Ibrahim El Fadli, Libyan National Meteorological Center (LNMC) in Tripoli for this data.)

ANOMALY OF TEMPERATURE DATA AT SITE DURING PERIOD OF RECORD:
If one looks at the September average monthly temperature record for 1919-1940 one can see an anomaly in the pre-1927 record:



IMPORTANT UPDATE: This plot does not represent "average monthly temperature record" but mean daily temperature amplitude (difference between daily min and max) in September 1919-1940, and it's in degree Celsius.

Much higher values at 20s strongly suggests that there was exposure problem (minimum temperatures remained at normal levels, but maximum temperatures was increased which affected daily amplitudes)

Best Regards
Piotr Djakow (Mr. Djakow produced this graphic in an analysis of the Azizia record he recently posted in Polish). For a translation of this see the comments section and comment #23 by Neaplolitan.

CONCLUSIONS
The temperature observations at Al Azizia prior to 1927 (when the site and instruments were changed) are obviously invalid. The ONLY consideration to accept the 58°C figure is that this was a result of a heat burst from dissipating rain showers in the hills south of the site (as per the WMO conclusion noted before). However, this does not explain the other inconsistent readings in other months and years from the station prior to 1927. So this potential argument in favor of the reading on Sept. 13, 1922 is also invalid. Mr. Fantoli's recommendation of a lower more reliable reading of 132.8°F also does not stand up accordingly. The shelter housing the thermometer was most likely over exposed and measuring heat radiating of off the black-tarred concrete of the terrace on which it was placed. It is likely that the absolute maximum temperature conceivable at the site on this date was no more than 120°F at best. The highest authenticated temperature measured in Libya's modern records is a reading of 50.2°C (122.4°F) at Zuara in June of 1995.

NEXT DISCUSSION
So if Al Azizia, Libya's 58°C (136.4°F) is not the hottest reliably measured temperature in the world, what is?

Stay tuned to my blog the week of Oct. 18-25 for this.

REFERENCES
A. FANTOLI, I valori medi della temperatura in Libia, «Bollettino della Società Geografica Italiana», vol. 7, nn. 1-2 (1954), pp. 59-71.

A. FANTOLI, La più alta temperatura del mondo, «Rivista di Meteorologia Aeronautica», vol. 18, n. 3 (1958), pp. 53-63.

USWB, Monthly Weather Review, May 1930 p.209.

Eden, Philip, "Change in the Weather", Continuum Publishers, London, 2005 p.194-195.

"Weather and Climate Extremes" by Dr. Paul F. Krause and Kathleen L. Flood, US Army Corps of Engineers, Topographic Engineering Center, Report TEC-0099, 1997.

Al-Fenadi, Younis, Hottest Temperature Record in the World, El Azizia, Libya, Libyan National Meteorological Centre.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and Arizona State University World Weather Extremes Committee.

KUDOS
Thanks to Maximiliano Herrera, Piotr Djaków , Howard Rainford, Khalid Ibrahim El Fadli (Libyan National Meteorological Center), and Federico Noris (for translation of Fantoli notes) for their contributions to this article.

Christopher C. Burt

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29. JuanAlonso
1:01 AM GMT on May 27, 2011
I recently discovered that the National weather service in Mexico claims that the highest temperature ever recorded on mexican soil is a very questionable 61.5ºC/143ºF (well above the official 136F), allegedly reported in 1949 in Mexicali.
Do you happen to have figures on temperature extremes in Mexico? because I find this very hard to believe.
Member Since: April 11, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 1
28. cyclonebuster
12:43 AM GMT on October 20, 2010
Tunnels can cool off such extreme temperatures!
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20431
27. ncgnto25
1:50 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Excuse me-I must not have been alert that day I asked my questions in the earlier blog. I have reviewed your data and you did answer my questions. My apologies.
Member Since: October 5, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 50
25. augfan
6:43 PM GMT on October 13, 2010
In July, 1953, I was stationed at NAS China Lake, CA, then called NAF Inyokern, We took an Explosives Magazine max-min temperature gage, placed it on a wooded folding chair with the top of the gage against the light brown wooden slat back and placed the chair on a black paved area intended for helicopter landings.

In less than 15 minutes, the maximum temp of 160 degrees F, was reached. The bottom of the chair was about 18 inches off the pavement.

IMO, that 136 degrees can be exceeded in lots of places in the Mojave,
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 56
24. pdjakow
3:22 PM GMT on October 12, 2010
Quoting Neapolitan:
Your disbelief of the Libyan record, then, seems to spring from the same place as Chris's. Interesting, indeed...


In my case the thing that finaly convinced me that Azizia record is spurious was an analysis of daily temperature amplitudes during twenties and later, and analysis of september temperature anomalies in 1921-1950 period.

Those analysis clearly show that the observations were conducted improperly, especially in 1921-1926 period.
Member Since: August 8, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 6
23. Neapolitan
1:04 PM GMT on October 12, 2010
Quoting pdjakow:
Hello!
Great Job!

I wrote post on Azizia issue serveral months ago. Unfortunetaly it's in polish.
http://gfspl.rootnode.net/BLOG/?p=652

We've talk about this issue via email as i remember.


Edit:

Notes on this plot:
http://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/chrisburt/libya_excursions.png

I think that is copy of my plot:
http://gfspl.rootnode.net/BLOG/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/exc1.png

This plot does not represent "average monthly temperature record" but mean daily temperature amplitude (difference between daily min and max) in September 1919-1940, and it's in degree Celsius.

Much higher values at 20s strongly suggests that there was exposure problem (minimum temperatures remained at normal levels, but maximum temperatures was increased which affected daily amplitudes)

Best Regards
Piotr Djakow


Excellent. I translated the page to which you linked from Polish, and was able to understand most of it. Your disbelief of the Libyan record, then, seems to spring from the same place as Chris's. Interesting, indeed...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13629
22. Neapolitan
12:58 PM GMT on October 12, 2010
Quoting Snowfire:


If we traffic in rare weather phenomena, this becomes tricky; and heat bursts seem to be a real phenomenon, albeit a rare one, typically accompanied by sudden, damaging winds and sharp drops in dew point. In at least two cases, they were described as having killed crops in the fields, which bespeaks a very powerful blast of hot air. As the story of the Coimbra event is told, the background temperature prior to the event was 38C, followed by a 32C rise in two minutes. This is a lot, but is it unprecedented? We do not know the background temperature prior to the Cherokee, Oklahoma event of 1909, but at 3 AM it could hardly have been more than 30C; thus the temperature in that case jumped at least 28C in a few minutes, and possibly more. So it's not impossible at all. That doesn't make it true: you might bust it by arguing that the instruments were incorrectly manufactured, deployed, read, etc., but I have heard no such argument regarding the Coimbra case, and just saying "sounds improbable" doesn't quite cut it.


I suppose that may not cut it...but oddball, poorly-documented, and never-verified events don't cut it either, do they?

I've no doubt so-called "heat bursts" are real; I literally witnessed one first hand in Wyoming back in the 1970s. And I've lived on the leeward side of the Rockies in various places, so I'm very familiar with the amazingly quick temperature increases that can be caused by the adiabatic heating that is part and parcel of a chinook/foehn wind. However, there's a lot of difference between a temperature shooting to 136--as purportedly happened in Cherokee, Oklahoma--and one rocketing to 158, as is said to have happened in Coimbra.

Bottom line, unless and until such an over-the-top heat burst--that is, one that breaks an 88-year-old world heat record by 22 degrees--is verified through multiple readings on a lab-calibrated instrument, I'm not willing to believe they're possible. Call me a Doubting Thomas, but while a man can claim to run a three-minute mile, until I see it done on a track in front of a bank of redundant timing devices and an unbiased panel of judges, I'm not going to believe it, either. :-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13629
21. pdjakow
11:18 AM GMT on October 12, 2010
Hello!
Great Job!

I wrote post on Azizia issue serveral months ago. Unfortunetaly it's in polish.
http://gfspl.rootnode.net/BLOG/?p=652

We've talk about this issue via email as i remember.


Edit:

Notes on this plot:
http://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/chrisburt/libya_excursions.png

I think that is copy of my plot:
http://gfspl.rootnode.net/BLOG/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/exc1.png

This plot does not represent "average monthly temperature record" but mean daily temperature amplitude (difference between daily min and max) in September 1919-1940, and it's in degree Celsius.

Much higher values at 20s strongly suggests that there was exposure problem (minimum temperatures remained at normal levels, but maximum temperatures was increased which affected daily amplitudes)

Best Regards
Piotr Djakow
Member Since: August 8, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 6
20. Snowfire
12:43 AM GMT on October 12, 2010
Quoting Neapolitan:


The Portugal "record" simply seems highly imropable if not impossible; 70.C / 158.F, when Coimbra's record high otherwise--45.8C / 114.4.F--is so much lower? Hmmm...


If we traffic in rare weather phenomena, this becomes tricky; and heat bursts seem to be a real phenomenon, albeit a rare one, typically accompanied by sudden, damaging winds and sharp drops in dew point. In at least two cases, they were described as having killed crops in the fields, which bespeaks a very powerful blast of hot air. As the story of the Coimbra event is told, the background temperature prior to the event was 38C, followed by a 32C rise in two minutes. This is a lot, but is it unprecedented? We do not know the background temperature prior to the Cherokee, Oklahoma event of 1909, but at 3 AM it could hardly have been more than 30C; thus the temperature in that case jumped at least 28C in a few minutes, and possibly more. So it's not impossible at all. That doesn't make it true: you might bust it by arguing that the instruments were incorrectly manufactured, deployed, read, etc., but I have heard no such argument regarding the Coimbra case, and just saying "sounds improbable" doesn't quite cut it.
Member Since: June 29, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 309
19. ncgnto25
12:10 PM GMT on October 11, 2010
Weatherhistorian-I look forward to more stories like this. Thank you! 2 questions come to my mind concerning the 58C temperature in Libya. 1.How long before 1927 was the thermometer in question used at that site? 2. If the temperature was so flawed-and I do agree you are probably right-why weren't there more temperatures recorded at that site near that extreme high? It seems that if the conditions at the site were the cause of the reading, then the situation would have repeated itself at some time. Thank you for your research.
Member Since: October 5, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 50
18. Snowfire
8:51 PM GMT on October 10, 2010
Two more tidbits relevant to the discussion:

-Kopperl, TX, 1960 (no date): 60C reported.

-Cherokee, OK, 7/11/1909, 0300 : 58C reported

Both of these are allegedly heat-burst related.
Member Since: June 29, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 309
17. Neapolitan
7:13 PM GMT on October 10, 2010
Quoting Snowfire:
Thermonuclear weapons FTW!!!

I did exclude man-made phenomena from my reckoning; otherwise the world low record probably occurred when somebody spilled liquid helium on the ground by mistake! ;-)
But this light-hearted discussion does raise some real points about what should be considered weather and what should not. For example, to me lightning bolts are a weather phenomenon, not something extraneous; and their driving energy, in the vast majority of cases, derives ultimately from the same uneven solar heating of which we speak, which creates the thunderstorms that spawn them.

In another vein, I have always thought that the 70C reading at Coimbra, Portugal has been unjustly disqualified/asterisked by historians. As far as I have heard, the reading seemed real enough.

Here are two more to chew on:

-New Mexico (can't find specifics, but I saw it in an old edition of Guinness:) 62C reported.

-San Luis Potosí, Mexico, 1933: 58C reported.

Anyone care to bust/comment on these?


The Portugal "record" simply seems highly imropable if not impossible; 70.C / 158.F, when Coimbra's record high otherwise--45.8C / 114.4.F--is so much lower? Hmmm...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13629
16. Snowfire
5:05 PM GMT on October 10, 2010
Thermonuclear weapons FTW!!!

I did exclude man-made phenomena from my reckoning; otherwise the world low record probably occurred when somebody spilled liquid helium on the ground by mistake! ;-)
But this light-hearted discussion does raise some real points about what should be considered weather and what should not. For example, to me lightning bolts are a weather phenomenon, not something extraneous; and their driving energy, in the vast majority of cases, derives ultimately from the same uneven solar heating of which we speak, which creates the thunderstorms that spawn them.

In another vein, I have always thought that the 70C reading at Coimbra, Portugal has been unjustly disqualified/asterisked by historians. As far as I have heard, the reading seemed real enough.

Here are two more to chew on:

-New Mexico (can't find specifics, but I saw it in an old edition of Guinness:) 62C reported.

-San Luis Potosí, Mexico, 1933: 58C reported.

Anyone care to bust/comment on these?
Member Since: June 29, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 309
15. Neapolitan
1:33 PM GMT on October 10, 2010
Quoting Snowfire:
I understand that temperatures as hot as 680F occurred near Mt. St. Helens in May of 1980. And there is also the question of how hot the middle of a lightning channel gets....hotter than any of the numbers bruited about here, surely.


Well, the interior of a hydrogen bomb can reach 10 million Kelvin, or around 18 million Fahrenheit...and that's considerably toastier than either Al Azizya or Death Valley. Thermonuclear weapons FTW!!!

Seriously, though, weather records obviously deal with atmospheric events caused by uneven solar heating of the earth's surface, not with fleeting phenomena created by chemical, electrical, geologic, or other processes. Thankfully; imagine the confusion if it were otherwise. ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13629
14. Snowfire
2:52 AM GMT on October 10, 2010
I understand that temperatures as hot as 680F occurred near Mt. St. Helens in May of 1980. And there is also the question of how hot the middle of a lightning channel gets....hotter than any of the numbers bruited about here, surely.
Member Since: June 29, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 309
13. nocaneindy
3:09 PM GMT on October 09, 2010
Thanks for the blog, extreme weather records fascinate me, and you obviously know your stuff!

Will you be covering all aspects of weather extremes, such as precipitation events, droughts, wind speeds, etc? How often do you plan on updates?

I'm looking forward to part 2 of this compelling read, and many more to come.
Member Since: September 21, 2007 Posts: 34 Comments: 515
12. MercForHire
4:49 AM GMT on October 09, 2010
Quoting Neapolitan:


In both science and police forensics, it's not necessary to construct a time machine to test the validity of a past measurement; simply placing the older device against a newer one in a laboratory setting is often enough to at least throw the initial readings into doubt.

At any rate, it's highly unlikely Libya will willingly invite scientists in just so they can prove that one of Libya's claims to fame is false. I do think, however, any mention of the "record" should be accompanied by an asterisk.


I know nothing about police forensics, so can't compare anything in that field to the field of meteorology. But I am curious .... when you take your newer device & compare it to the older device, how are you going to recreate the exact atmospheric conditions on the day that the supposed temp was recorded?

Just for the record, I DO believe that the old reading is at least somewhat inaccurate. But it's a fact beyond doubt that very localized & often short-lived events can dramatically raise (or lower) temps by a dozen or more degrees in a VERY short time. This is the one possibility that I can't see ever being disproven, or proven, to have happened in Libya.

True, when you look at the history of the readings from before & after the equipment was replaced, then you see an anomaly. But when you look at September 13th of 1922, you see a recorded temp of 136.4 degrees. And we do know this was at a location which could well have had an occurence of this high of a temp.

The location is right, the time of year is right, the geography is right, so it COULD have occured. As a generally accepted temp for the last 88 years or so, then that's alot of "proof". The "asterisk" is probably a good idea, but I'm not so sure there is enough "proof" for anyone to say 100% that we now know it didn't actually happen.

Doesn't matter to me a bit in the world what happens however.
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 139
11. Neapolitan
1:38 AM GMT on October 09, 2010
Quoting weatherhistorian:
As I noted at the end of my blog today--Oct. 8--(concerning the controversial Al Azizia, Libya record) this was just Part 1 of two blogs. My next blog (Part 2) on the subject of 'The World's Hottest Reliably Measured Temperature', will review ALL (to my best knowledge) temperatures recorded of 129°F+ (officially measured AND anecdotal!). I hope to post this next week.

I plan to present an argument that Death Valley, CA holds this record: but it is not the 134°F reported from 1913.

Stay tuned my friends!


Standing by with bated breath... ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13629
10. Christopher C. Burt , Weather Historian
1:10 AM GMT on October 09, 2010
As I noted at the end of my blog today--Oct. 8--(concerning the controversial Al Azizia, Libya record) this was just Part 1 of two blogs. My next blog (Part 2) on the subject of 'The World's Hottest Reliably Measured Temperature', will review ALL (to my best knowledge) temperatures recorded of 129°F+ (officially measured AND anecdotal!). I hope to post this next week.

I plan to present an argument that Death Valley, CA holds this record: but it is not the 134°F reported from 1913.

Stay tuned my friends!
Member Since: February 15, 2006 Posts: 312 Comments: 293
9. FloridaShore
12:41 AM GMT on October 09, 2010
(comment removed by author)
Member Since: September 13, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 1
8. Christopher C. Burt , Weather Historian
10:05 PM GMT on October 08, 2010
Actually, to the best of my knowledge, the Libyan National Meteorological Center (LNMC) does not and never has accepted the Italian colonial authorities Al Azizia pre-WWII weather data. I don't see why they should in this case where the data was so obviously flawed. A 'heat burst' does not explain why, once the instruments were changed, no further readings ever came close to the multiple instances of 53°C+ that were measured pre-1927. I doubt there were a 'series' of heat bursts that just happened to affect this site only between 1920-1926. The hottest temperature measured at Al Azizia after WWII has been only 46°C (115°F). NOTE: I have a query of confirmation pending about the above from Mr. El Fadli, the director of LNMC and will let you know his response.
Member Since: February 15, 2006 Posts: 312 Comments: 293
7. Neapolitan
9:28 PM GMT on October 08, 2010
Quoting MercForHire:
Unfortunately however, one thing is working against the possibility of ever getting this record high thrown out .... time.

The likelihood of anyone ever being able to prove that this reading was invalid has exactly the same chances of anyone ever being able to prove it was an actual temprature. Those chances are zero.

I seriously doubt that anyone could be found who was standing at that very spot, at that very instant, on that day. Taking the age of 15 as a very rough approximation of an age at which someone would remember the specifics, then that observer would be 103 years old.

Since we don't HAVE that observer available, we can only assume the temp was valid, since it could very well have been caused by a short-lived heat burst which happened at that very time. This possibility has been brought up countless times in the years-long discussion about the validity of this reading. Being as we KNOW that possibility can occur, then there is no way to 100% show that it DIDN'T. So basically, we are stuck with that temp until a higher one is recorded in the future.

I agree that MOST of the evidence shows it was an untrustworthy reading. But not ALL of the evidence shows that. Being as it has been an accepted reading for decades, and we have no eyewitness to state that a temporary & natural burst of heat DIDN'T occur at that specific time, and that we know that possibility CAN happen, then the only real choice is to accept that it did.

Thus, the reading is valid on the books, if not very suspicious to those who study the exacts surrounding it.


In both science and police forensics, it's not necessary to construct a time machine to test the validity of a past measurement; simply placing the older device against a newer one in a laboratory setting is often enough to at least throw the initial readings into doubt.

At any rate, it's highly unlikely Libya will willingly invite scientists in just so they can prove that one of Libya's claims to fame is false. I do think, however, any mention of the "record" should be accompanied by an asterisk.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13629
5. MercForHire
8:06 PM GMT on October 08, 2010
Unfortunately however, one thing is working against the possibility of ever getting this record high thrown out .... time.

The likelihood of anyone ever being able to prove that this reading was invalid has exactly the same chances of anyone ever being able to prove it was an actual temprature. Those chances are zero.

I seriously doubt that anyone could be found who was standing at that very spot, at that very instant, on that day. Taking the age of 15 as a very rough approximation of an age at which someone would remember the specifics, then that observer would be 103 years old.

Since we don't HAVE that observer available, we can only assume the temp was valid, since it could very well have been caused by a short-lived heat burst which happened at that very time. This possibility has been brought up countless times in the years-long discussion about the validity of this reading. Being as we KNOW that possibility can occur, then there is no way to 100% show that it DIDN'T. So basically, we are stuck with that temp until a higher one is recorded in the future.

I agree that MOST of the evidence shows it was an untrustworthy reading. But not ALL of the evidence shows that. Being as it has been an accepted reading for decades, and we have no eyewitness to state that a temporary & natural burst of heat DIDN'T occur at that specific time, and that we know that possibility CAN happen, then the only real choice is to accept that it did.

Thus, the reading is valid on the books, if not very suspicious to those who study the exacts surrounding it.
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 139
4. txag91met
6:32 PM GMT on October 08, 2010
I would imagine a large portion of our historical records from instrument shelters were bogus back then. I always wondered about that observation. Death Valley -282 feet below sea-level should be hotter. But that weather station is next to asphalt now...so I guess we can't use that one either.

Member Since: January 30, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 750
3. Neapolitan
3:08 PM GMT on October 08, 2010
Upon re-reading, it occurs to me that it would be very helpful to recreate the 1922 setup--including instrumentation--then compare several days or weeks worth of results with a modern, calibrated thermometer in a scientifically-accepted configuration. It would be an expensive test, I suppose, but it might be worth it for such a well-known record, no?

At any ratea, I've a feeling you're probably really onto something...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13629
2. Neapolitan
3:01 PM GMT on October 08, 2010
That's amazing! I grew up in southern California, and loved to visit Death Valley. One of the very first weather stats I ever knew was that DV's wasn't quite as hot as Al Azizia, so it always bothered me a bit. As I got older and technology improved, while I didn't doubt that it was hot there, but I did wonder just how accurate a 1922 thermometer would've been.

if your speculations are correct, congrats!
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13629

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About weatherhistorian

Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.